75000 People in the streets of Brussels demand the world tackles climate change. It is the biggest climate march ever in the Belgian capital. The march comes at the start of the yearly UN climate conference in Katowice, Poland. There, countries are expected to agree on rules to implement the Paris Agreement. In Paris in 2015 the whole world committed to reduce rising global temperature to 1,5 degrees, but without any clear rules. This year experts have been warning much more needs to be done, and much more urgently than previously thought.
500 Angry citizens protest against hikes in fuelprices. Bright yellow vests are their trademark. They are a grass roots movement that originated in France and are mobilized through social media. They come with many grievances, say they have difficulties to make ends meet and blame ‘corrupt policians’ and the ‘lying press’. A government tax on diesel fuel seems to have sparked their revolt. The tax is claimed to be part of a ‘green tax’ policy to discourage people from using polluting cars and curb carbon emissions. The demonstrators blame global warming on industry and big corporations. Protests in France and Belgium turn violent with masked individuals throwing cobblestones and metal objects at police and leaving a trail of destruction in the streets.
Two suicide bombers detonate their suitcases packed with homemade explosives in the busy departures hall of Brussels airport. Another terrorist explodes a rucksack in an underground train carriage at Maalbeek metro station. In all, 32 people are killed and many more injured for life. The city comes to a complete standstill and the badly damaged airport will remain closed for three weeks. Two suicide bombers abandon their plan and flee. So-called Islamic State claims responsibility. The terrorists are members of a criminal gang. They are linked to the November 2015 Paris attacks and Police had been looking for them, but failed to catch them in time.
A hundred years ago, 32 Congolese volunteered to fight in the trenches around Ypres. Unlike France and Britain, Belgium had not forcefully enlisted its colonial subjects into the war. These 32 men surprised everyone by volunteering. They had been sailors and servants, or street vendors selling candy in the streets of Brussels, and were hoping for some money and three meals a day. They fought along their colonial masters, apparently being treated as equals for the duration of the war. Some were wounded or were taken prisoner by the Germans. Others had second thoughts and tried to escape the muddy trench warfare by fleeing to sunnier France. Eleven lost their lives and remain buried in Flander’s fields.
After Belgium was overrun by the Germans in May 1940, it still managed to keep on fighting in Africa until the end of the war. In this little-known episode Belgian colonial troops fought their way from The Congo to Nigeria and all the way to Palestine. On their way they defeated Italian troops in Abyssinia -now Ethiopia- and captured several towns, among them the stronghold of Saio, where they took 8 Italian generals prisoner.